Family sues 3M over PFOS found in blood

Family sues 3M over PFOS found in blood
Residents of the Zwijndrecht neighbourhood where the 3M plant is located have struggled with the effects of its pollution. Photo by Helen Lyons.

An Antwerp family with very high concentrations of PFOS in their blood and in their garden is demanding compensation from chemical company 3M.

The family lives about one kilometre from the 3M site where PFOS was produced until the beginning of this century, De Standaard reports, leading to massive pollution of a scale still being determined by authorities.

The family members all have extremely high levels of PFOS in their blood, a substance known to weaken the immune system and increase the risk of diabetes.

“The parents were found to have 750 to 1,000 micrograms of PFOS per litre of blood, and the children also have very high values,” said their lawyer Geert Lenssens.

“High values of PFOS were also found in their garden. That frightens the family and causes them a lot of stress.”

Levels in blood exceed threshold for health effects

The blood values of the family members far exceed 20 micrograms of PFOS per litre of blood, the threshold above which the risk of health effects increases.

Now the family, which is requesting privacy and seeks to stay out of the media, is going to court. On Tuesday, their case will be heard by the Justice of the Peace in the fifth canton in Antwerp.

“The family is claiming compensation for the stress the pollution is causing them,” says Lenssens.

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“They are obviously concerned about their health. Whoever lives in the neighborhood of 3M can not just sell his house and move, because the area around the 3M site is no longer attractive on the housing market.”

The lawyer also added that the family had chosen their home in the neighbourhood based on the ability to keep chickens and grow their own vegetables – both of which the government has now warned people within the vicinity of the factory to not do.

“It seems like a small detail, but it's important to them,” their lawyer said.

The verdict they are pursuing would allow them to continue to claim compensation in the future in the event that further health problems arise.

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